NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court held an extraordinary hearing on Saturday after a former employee of the apex court accused Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment and persecution.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Gogoi was constituted after a sworn affidavit by the woman copies of which were sent to the residences of 22 apex court judges became public on Saturday.
During the hearing in CJI's court No 1, an unfazed Justice Gogoi said the allegations are unbelievable.
"This is unbelievable. I don't think I should stoop low even to deny these allegation," he said, adding, "There has to be bigger force behind this, they want to deactivate the office of CJI."
The apex court registry in a notice earlier in the day said a three-bench headed by the CJI was being set up to deal with a "matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary". The bench also comprised justices Arun Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna
The former employee has described two incidents of alleged molestation by Gogoi in her affidavit, both of which allegedly took place in October 2018, only days after he was appointed as the CJI.
The woman also said that she and three other members of her family were dismissed or suspended from their jobs following the alleged harassment.
Confirming that a letter by the woman has been received by several sitting judges. Supreme Court Secretary General Sanjeev Sudhakar Kalgaonkar said all the allegations made by the woman concerned are malafide and have no basis.
Former lady employee of the #SupremeCourt of India had made grave allegations against Hon’ble CJI #RanjanGogoi . SupremeCourt special bench which is going to hear the matter after its publication in the media . pic.twitter.com/PCSZbdJ5xN— Pradeep Rai (@pradeepraiindia) April 20, 2019
"No doubt, it is a malafide allegation," CJI Gogoi said.
Stating that it was leaving it to the wisdom of media to act responsibly on allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI, the court said the independence of judiciary is under "very, very severe" threat.
"After 20 years of selfless service as judge, I have bank balance of Rs 6.80 lakh," he said.
"Nobody can catch me on money, people have to find something and they have found this: This is the reward CJI gets after 20 years of service," Justice Gogoi.
He made it clear that he will preside over the CJI court and discharge his judicial functions without any fear. "I have taken this unusual and extraordinary step of sitting in court today because things have gone too far," the CJI said, adding, judiciary can't be made a scapegoat.
(With PTI inputs)